Sunday, September 5, 2010

I am I am I am

I've never read any of Sylvia Plath's poetry before but you pretty much have to be living in a cave to have never heard of this book.

I had a very easy time connecting to our narrator, Ester. She's a young small town girl in the big city, with everything in life ahead of her yet feels hopelessly out of sync with everyone around her.

"I guess I should have been excited the way most of the other girls were, but I couldn't get myself to react. I felt very still and very empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel, moving dully along in the middle of the surrounding hullabaloo."

I read that sentence and knew that I was going to love this book. Plath captured the detachment that comes with a nervous breakdown perfectly.

Some of the secondary characters are so well executed in just a few words. I would latch on to Doreen and follow her around all the time. She does her own thing and exudes confidence and independence, which is probably why Ester eventually does not want to be around her.

"Doreen had intuition. Everything she said was like a secret voice speaking straight out of my own bones."

Ester goes back to her hometown after her month in NYC and recollects on her past interactions with her boyfriend. I wish he had been the one to fall down a mountain and break his leg. With Buddy, Ester sees the narrow life that will be expected of her as a wife and mother. So she rebels the only way she can, withdrawing further into herself.

"And I knew that in spite of all roses and kisses and restaurant dinners a man showers on a woman before he married her, what he secretly wanted when the wedding service ended was for her to flatten out underneath his feet like Mrs. Willard's kitchen mat."

But she is stuck in the fifties and after awhile her mother takes her in for therapy. After a poorly done electro-shock treatment, Ester goes says enough and makes several suicide attempts. She is discovered and taken to a group home for treatment.

I read a review of this book that said it was Salinger-esque in a female voice and I completely agree. The writing style was so accessible and easy for me to get into.

"From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out.

I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, the plopped to the ground at my feet."

This is my problem with life right now - I feel exactly the way she describes. I would highly suggest this book to anyone, although maybe not when you are currently having your own little breakdown.

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